Dress to beat the heat

What to wear this summer to stay cool at work or play

July 24, 2012|By Erin Gibbons, For RedEye

Tired of sweating through your shirt and sticking to your chair—when it's not even August yet? Whether you're commuting to work, dining outdoors or braving an outdoor festival, we've rounded up some tips for dressing to beat the heat from three Chicago experts: Suzanne Kopulos, founder and style editor of local fashion site garmental.com; Kate Coxworth, founder and fashion designer of the label Kate Boggiano; and Shanaya Capo, founder and stylist of personal styling and wardrobe consulting firm StyleMaven19. They may not be able to will the 90-degree temps away, but if they can make them a bit more bearable, we're cool with that.

First read up on basic principles of dressing to beat the heat. Then, check out these specific strategies for three types of very hot Chicagoans.

THE WORKER BEE

DO put away the pants if you're a woman. Switch to skirts, dresses or, depending on how fashion-forward your office is, shorts suits. If you do have to wear pants, opt for a silk-blend variety.

DO wear lighter pants if you're a man. Since men typically don't have as much leeway with summer clothing, choosing suits in those light colors and lightweight fabrics we mentioned earlier is that much more important. Unlined suits also can keep you cooler.

DO be aware of your footwear. You hold a lot of heat in your feet, so whenever possible, ladies, go with slingbacks, peep-toe pumps and other airy styles rather than stuffing your puppies into a completely closed shoe. If your dress code requires closed-toe shoes, leather pairs breathe better than vinyl or other man-made materials.

DO accessorize. "Sometimes it's harder for office workers to try to be trendy but also stay cool, so your accessories in the summer are really important," Coxworth said.

DON'T take the less-is-more motto too far. If you hold an established role at your company—or want to—err on the side of caution when it comes to summer dressing. Men should feel out what's acceptable before ditching their button-downs and ties for polo shirts, and women should save the slinky tank tops and mini-skirts for after-hours. And don't show your bra straps. Ever.

 

THE FEST-GOER

DO cover your head. It may seem like a hat or bandana would make you even hotter, but it'll protect your head and face from the sun and keep your hair out of your eyes (and from looking like a sweaty mess). Floppy hats and fedoras are stylish options for women, and raffia hats and cotton baseball caps are great for men.

DO bring a great bag. Hold your sunscreen, shades and water bottle, keep a lightweight shirt to throw on if you feel like you're getting sunburned, and store layers you've taken off. Just make sure the bag itself is lightweight.

DO dress for comfort. Think tube dresses, rompers, loose cotton shorts and lightweight woven shirts or T-shirts—airy clothing that won't be cumbersome whether you're standing for hours or sitting in the grass.

DON'T be duped by denim. Cut-off jeans are popular among festival goers, but they'll make you hotter than you think. "Denim is like the devil," Coxworth said. "It's so heavy, it just weighs you down."

Outdoor diner

THE OUTDOOR DINER

DO cover your legs. Ladies, several things can go wrong when you wear super-short shorts or a skimpy skirt while sitting at an outdoor table: A) Your thighs get stuck to the chair. B) Your legs get eaten up by mosquitoes. C) You're self-conscious about flashing your dining companion the entire night. Avoid all three scenarios by wearing lightweight pants or a long skirt or dress.

DO bring a cardigan or light jacket. Even on steamy days, temperatures can drop drastically when the sun goes down. Avoid having to prematurely retreat inside by throwing on a lightweight layer.

DO experiment with trends. At the office, you have to dress conservatively; at a fest, you just don't care. Summer nights on a patio are the perfect place to see and be seen. For ladies, high-low dresses that are shorter in front and longer in the back are both stylish and practical, as are maxis, which continue to be popular. Rompers become more sophisticated in a silk or cotton-silk blend, and anything with a lace or crocheted insert makes a statement while providing built-in air conditioning. Free-flowing jersey materials are always a great option for comfortable outdoor dining.

DON'T wear socks. It's a no-brainer for women, but there aren't as many occasions when men can pull off the sock-less look. This is one such occasion. Save flip-flops for the festival and boat shoes for the yacht club, and opt instead for a sophisticated slide-on leather loafer.

Erin Gibbons is a RedEye special contributor.


***Where to find the clothes pictured here
>>Pink top and tan skirt suit from Express (646 N. Michigan Ave. 312-944-5770)
>>Shorts, shirt, sunglasses and hat from Brooklyn Industries (1426 N. Damen Ave. 773-360-8182)
>>Bamboo-blend dress with belt by Ladakh and necklace by Just the 2 of Us Jewelry, available at Edith Hart (1917 N. Damen Ave. 773-252-3350)

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